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Anger over Woolwich theatre demolition in 'cultural hub'
A decision to demolish a Woolwich theatre and replace it with flats in an area billed as a cultural hub has been met with outrage.
Hundreds of people had signed a petition organised by Lib Dem Stewart Christie to keep Woolwich Grand Theatre open - even the council's newly-elected deputy leader had spoken out - but a Greenwich Council planning board agreed to knock it down last week.
In its place will be a five-storey building with smaller cultural space and 34 flats. All that will be left of the old site is a plaque with information on the knocked down building's cultural history.
Adrian Green, who has run the former cinema since 2011, was clearly upset after the plans were approved and would only say: "The decision speaks for itself."
But leader of Greenwich Conservatives Councillor Spencer Drury blasted the decision. He said: "The council's 'vision' for our town centres remains confused and incoherent.
"Culture in Woolwich needs the Grand, but we seem to get more flats with less public space to help build a community.
"I might add that it is wonderfully cynical of the Labour Party to delay a decision until after the council elections - given their deputy leader opposed it, you do wonder whether there has been any actual change of policy."
The decision comes as the council talks up plans for a "cultural quarter" near the Royal Arsenal which will see the Firepower museum move away from the borough to be replaced by other arts organisations.
Greenwich Council says it has received expressions of interest from three institutions but has only named one so far - dance organisation the Hofesh Schechter Company.
And the latest planning decision appears to go against the council's own masterplan for the area around the theatre - the so-called Bathway Quarter - which had promised "cultural uses" and to make the most of the area's historical assets.
A previous planning decision was deferred for a site visit due to concerns over the amount of community space on offer. New plans slightly increased that but only at the expense of affordable housing and wheelchair accessible accommodation.
A spokesman for Greenwich Council said: "The council is committed to protecting our cultural heritage and enhancing the cultural offer in the Royal Borough.
"That is why the planning board decision ensured the new development on Wellington Street will deliver a new, purpose built 455m2 space for cultural and community use in the heart of Woolwich town centre, in addition to 34 much needed new homes on top of the ground floor space.
"It is also why the council has announced plans to create a new cultural quarter in Woolwich and to refurbish the Borough Halls in Greenwich in order to deliver a new arts and performance hub."